ways to prevent medical malpractice claims
Why patients sue
To prevent medical malpractice claims, it is important to understand the reason patients sue their physicians or the facilities they are receiving care from.
The majority of medical malpractice lawsuits that are filed are an emotional response by a patient to a lack of communication they received from the physician or staff of the facilities. For this reason, many lawsuits take physicians by surprise, as they have no idea there is any reason that the patient should sue them.
Patients who feel that their physicians or healthcare providers don’t actively listen to and consider their complaints are much more likely to sue. Those who feel that their physicians don’t allow adequate time for their appointments are also at high risk of suing.
According to Physicians Weekly, Patients considering litigation display common traits including anger, mistrust, drug dependence, and a focus on compensation.
A study analyzing the same data, published in Pain Medicine found a direct correlation between the degree of pain the patient was suffering and their inclination to sue. Those suffering acute pain were much more likely to sue than those with acute or no pain.
Communication is vital
It is critical for both medical professionals and staff of facilities to develop an open-minded, communicative, and trusting relationship with patients. This is an essential foundation for a successful diagnosis and treatment.
When a patient feels they are being ignored or dismissed, they are far less likely to divulge personal information that might be critical to an accurate diagnoses of their condition. They are also less likely to follow the recommendations of a medical professional.
Physicians Weekly offers the following valuable advice:
“Simply asking patients if they have any questions or if they need any clarification is a good way for physicians to foster an open, positive patient-physician relationship, thereby lowering the risk of legal action.
Open, positive inter-healthcare-provider relationships are also essential. Physicians who are too authoritarian and refuse to be questioned may make other healthcare providers feel uncomfortable about questioning the plan for a patient’s care. This lack of a collaborative protocol could lead to key details being overlooked—and, ultimately, a malpractice suit. “
This advice does not just apply to medical professionals. Receptionists, carers, support staff should be good communicators. Nursing homes or healthcare providers should have training programs to ensure staff are taking an active role in establishing good relations with patients.
The importance of documentation
The importance of accurate and comprehensive documentation cannot be stressed enough. From the front desk of a healthcare facility to the specialist consultant and everything in between. All patient visits, all assessments, suggested diagnostic tests, referrals, and treatment plans. Everything should be documented in detail; forming a clearly defined differential diagnosis; and all actions taken to conclude the final diagnosis.
It is also important to make a note of whether or not a patient has followed up on referrals or procedures the physician recommended. This safeguards the physician against unnecessarily continuing to treat a condition that has been referred to a specialist.
Physicians must ensure that notes are not altered once they are made. If something is written in error, a further note explaining the error is essential. Altered notes on a patient’s documentation are often highlighted by medical malpractice lawyers as a sign of an attempted coverup, or of incompetence to a jury.
When defending a malpractice lawsuit, detailed notes will help a physician or manager remember events and recommendations that happened years ago, making them a reliable witness and giving them the appearance of a competent professional.
Because of the impact medical malpractice claims have on medical professionals, care should be taken to try and prevent patients from wanting to sue.
Most claims are filed because patients feel they were not listend to or their questions were not answered, so communication with patients is essential.
Keeping accurate and detailed notes is equally important.
By addressing these issues, medical professionals can prevent many claims being filed against them and possibly never have to experience the determental effects of having a malpractice claim filed against them.
Strategies for Skilled Nursing, Senior Living & Assisted Living Facilities to mitigate malpractice claims, can be found here.